FORMER CIA DIRECTOR John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he grew worried last year about communications between the Russians and people in Donald Trump’s orbit. “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” he said, adding, “It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”
Mr. Brennan’s testimony made only more imperative a full investigation of Russia’s election-year hacking, any sort of Trump campaign collusion and any after-the-fact attempt to foil this question-asking. Yet even as the public case for such an investigation continues to strengthen, revelations about Mr. Trump’s apparent attempts to challenge the FBI’s inquiry into these questions continue to roll in.
The Post reported Monday that President Trump asked two senior intelligence officials, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers, to declare publicly that there was no evidence of collusion between the president’s campaign and the Russians. Mr. Trump did so after top FBI officials, including now-fired Director James B. Comey, reportedly refused a White House request to knock down news stories on possible Trump campaign-Russia links, and after Mr. Comey reportedly declined Mr. Trump’s entreaty to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Instead, Mr. Comey subsequently confirmed in public testimony to Congress that the FBI was, indeed, examining any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. The testimony reportedly incensed the president.
Turning to Mr. Coats and Mr. Rogers in the wake of Mr. Comey’s testimony, according to a senior intelligence official, was an effort to “muddy the waters” about what the FBI was looking at. In the telling of one former intelligence official, the president was “asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation.”
And that is not even the most worrying interpretation. One intelligence official told The Post that the White House asked the intelligence chiefs, “Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?” This questioning could indicate mere confusion — or that the president was trying to pressure Mr. Comey to drop the FBI’s inquiry via intelligence agencies, after direct pressure on the FBI director failed.
Perhaps Mr. Trump knows of no collusion with Russia and was unaware of the proper boundaries between himself and government agencies that must make their own determinations. If that were ever an excuse, it has worn thin. By the time Mr. Trump turned to Mr. Coats and Mr. Rogers, reports suggest Mr. Comey had already impressed upon him the importance of maintaining FBI independence, a sentiment Mr. Comey put into action by keeping the Russia investigation going and refusing to bow to Mr. Trump in other ways. Now that Mr. Trump has been widely rebuked for firing Mr. Comey and for other actions relating to the Russia investigation, if the president crosses a line, he knows what he’s doing.
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